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The student news site of Sacramento State University

The State Hornet

The student news site of Sacramento State University

The State Hornet

Student news without fear or favor

OPINION: The NFL blackballed Colin Kaepernick and never apologized

Taking a knee that changed everything
Hailey Valdivia
In 2016, Colin Kaepernick decided to sit down during the national anthem and later kneeled in support of the fight against police brutality, discrimination and racial inequality. His legacy serves as a powerful reminder of the intersection between sports and social change. (Graphic made in Canva by Hailey Valdivia)

As a San Francisco 49er fan, I feel quite ecstatic about my team being in Super Bowl 58 against the Kansas City Chiefs. However, I can’t help but think about what the National Football League did in 2016 to my favorite quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

On Sept. 1, 2016, Kaepernick, a starting quarterback in the NFL, performed one of the most courageous acts I’ve ever seen done by a professional athlete. Kaepernick sat down during the national anthem and later kneeled in support of the fight against police brutality, discrimination and racial inequality.

Although, Kaepernick was seen as a valiant hero, to some he was seen as a privileged Black athlete who had disrespected his country and those that served in the military by not standing.

To me, Kaepernick did the most American thing possible and defied power structures outside of his control, yet he was met with criticism that questioned his patriotic spirit.

Even as other players decided to join him in his cause, Kaepernick was eventually blacklisted from the NFL for exercising his First Amendment right to peacefully protest. This was the NFL’s version of social justice at the time so it seems.

While a vast array of players decided to kneel and stand in solidarity with Kaepernick. The most notable was 49ers free safety Eric Reid. Reid carried on Kaepernick’s cause by kneeling all the way into the 2019 season, unfortunately he was ultimately ousted by NFL teams league-wide as well, and became a free agent in 2020.

Like Kaepernick, Reid eventually settled a grievance case with the NFL behind closed doors and was forced to retire around the prime age of 28.

In 2018, the NFL took away the right to kneel during the national anthem and players faced suspensions along with fines, which slowed down the movement drastically.

Now in the 2023 season, the NFL is almost a completely different organization, with new social justice initiatives to highlight the importance of breaking barriers and ending systemic racism.

Since, Kaepernick played his final game with the 49ers in 2017, no other teams have offered him a chance to play.

RELATED: Opinion: The Kings mean more than just basketball

Even after NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, issued a public apology to Kaepernick, he has yet been truly considered to play professionally again. While Goodell’s apology was pleasing to hear, it does not feel as genuine as it should as no actions have been made to rectify what happened to Kaepernick and players like him.

The same league that now preaches Black lives matter also silenced the very voice that was advocating for that in the first place. The only difference is that Kaepernick decided to protest before it was even popular to do so. If Goodell’s apology was as sincere as he made it seem then Kaepernick would at least be on a practice squad today.

Now, Kaepernick has pivoted to another call of action for advocating about social justice in his community and others like it that experience discrimination.

Without Kaepernick’s unwavering kneel against the national anthem and flag, the NFL wouldn’t be where it’s at today from a social justice standpoint.

Since 2020, the NFL has committed $250M over 10 years in order to fight against systemic oppression. In addition, the NFL now openly allows players to wear helmets with social justice messages and has established initiatives to promote diversity, inclusivity and equity.

As a Mexican American myself, I saw Kaepernick as not only a great player but someone I could identify with on an ethnic and personal level. He showed me that I could make a difference in my own community along with others like it and if I have a platform then I should use it for good.

Instead of keeping quiet, Kaepernick put his fame, career and safety all on the line for the greater good of the African American community. While some may see it as disrespectful and privileged, I see it as inspiring.

Despite the controversy and shame he faced, Kaepernick took a stand against hate and discrimination which is why he is celebrated nationwide in light of Black History Month.

If Kaepernick never took that knee then I don’t think I would have the confidence to write like this today. Because of his sacrifice, I was able to see that the world was so much bigger than just sports, and that my voice matters too.

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About the Contributor
Ismael Martinez Castillo
(he/him) Ismael is a transfer student from Sacramento City College and currently majoring in English. This is his first semester at The State Hornet. He has no prior experience in journalism, but is eager to learn and grow on his journey here. In his free time, Ismael enjoys watching anime, working out, and playing sports.
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  • umeweallFeb 18, 2024 at 6:21 pm

    I feel that the NFL is a bastion of hypocrisy. They claim to value the stand that Colin took, publicly support revitalizing considerations on Black Life, and conditions surrounding being Black. There actions in the continuous black balling of Colin ( call it what it is, among ALL of the NFL franchises ) is patently prejudicial. They don’t really want someone who has a conscious, that may point out social inequities. They want someone that will just keep their mouth shut and be a good ‘boy’.

  • Robert CainFeb 18, 2024 at 2:57 am

    I hope Chargers grab him for their back-up. He was one of my favorites also!

  • Ian MacRaeFeb 12, 2024 at 4:07 pm

    I have never watched an NFL game since Colin Kaepernick did not stand for the national anthem of his country (I’m Canadian) and the NFL allowed it to continue. I don’t care what your personal opinion is on current events, you stand for the national anthem of the country you live in, or you leave that country and go somewhere you are more comfortable living in.

    • True PatriotFeb 24, 2024 at 8:04 am

      We should never ever want our countries to be better and should instead never complain and allow for our countries to collapse into decline without so much as a disquieted peep.

  • DRascoeFeb 11, 2024 at 4:43 pm

    Amen! Very well said. I stand with CKapernick and you!

  • Jessica TanzerFeb 11, 2024 at 3:46 pm

    Thank you

  • KenFeb 11, 2024 at 3:35 pm

    Nor should they. What Kaepernick forgot is that he was an employee and should have always carried himself thus. His value to a team as a “team” player diminished every time he opened his mouth and reflected poorly on any prospective employer. No one wants to hire a loud-mouthed troublemaker, it’s bad for the team, bad for the management, bad for business and bad for the fans. He defecated in his own bed, he has no one to blame but himself while he sleeps in it.